Review: Terry Pratchett at UEA


This account of Terry Pratchet talking at the University of East Anglia was written for a now-defunct university website. For other contemporaneous accounts, read Concrete Issue 119. Terence Eden - 2017

Everything I learned - I learned at my local library. School taught me how to spit!

Terry Pratchett is Britain's best selling living author. With total sales of 18 million books (21 million after a manual recount) it is fair to say that this guy is popular.

A packed LT1 awaited him as he turned up to promote his new book, "The Truth" which is a semi-autobiographical satire of the press.

A grim looking set of men, dwarves, and trolls are looking at newsprint

Wearing his trademark black hat and beard and speaking in his delightfully excited voice he enlightened us on the Discworld, being an author and his life. There was no mention made of carnivorous plants.

Perhaps surprisingly, he informed us that after passing his 11+ he decided not to go to the local grammar school "To avoid learning Latin"!
His mother, he recalls, bribed her son into reading by paying him but his love of books started age twelve with a vicious combination of J.R.R Tolkien and Richmal Crompton.
"Just William was perfect," he mused, "You can still see William and his gang today; imagine, William and the Illegal Immigrants..."
Perhaps surprisingly he actively disliked Caroll's "Alice".
"I like practical fantasy, like E Nessbit... There's something curiously unfunny about the Victorian idea of a pork-pie on legs."
As a keen reader, he became an assistant librarian at his local library, which opened him up to a whole new range of Fantasy, Science Fiction, Folklore, Geography, history and Smut.
"When you're thirteen you don't want to waste any time. I quickly found out that if the characters weren't at it on page 152, they weren't going to do it at all!"

He wrote the first Discworld book "The Colour Of Magic" in the early Eighties as an antidote to the fantasy genre that had grown up.
"I noticed that science fiction had become so prevalent that people like Douglas Adams [author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy] were beginning to poke fun at the conventions and stereotypes of it."
"The Discworld," he says "Is a way of looking at our world. There is nothing funny about the Discworld, everything that happens there happens for a reason. It's the nature of things which happen which makes it funny."

When asked about his favourite character, he replied "People always expect me to say Rincewind or the Librarian - but they're not. My favourite characters are Commander Vimes and Granny Weatherwax. They're screwed up, that's why I like them. I feel that they are the most complete characters and that I know them. They are the most fun to write because they are fully realised. I can see Peter Postlethwaite starring as Vimes... he's got the right rumpled sort of face."

He even gave us a sneak peek of his next book "Thief of Time"!
"It's going to clear up a lot of inconsistencies in other books. It features a sort of Tibetan Martial Arts Monks who shuffle time to where it's really needed. When an afternoon has just flown by that's because the monks have diverted the time away to somewhere where the afternoon is dragging on. There's one character that is 800 years old but he keeps recycling his time around one day. It's a foolish idea. But it deals with how people perceive humans and humanity."

He was also asked whether he preferred writing children's books or adult's books. "I write what I feel like, my publishers don't really seem to mind. The best writing is accessible to all. I think I write for everybody - if the adults can keep up; that's fine by me!"

When asked about the Harry Potter phenomenon, he gave a rather curious reply, "Writing in a genre is like cookery. JK Rowling got the right mix at the right temperature and cooked it for the right time. She's been very lucky. I think there's an awful lot of hype out there, lots of reviewers don't seem to know that the idea of children going to schools to learn magic isn't an old one."

Finally, Terry Pratchett's comments on the bottom of the note pad I had used to transcribe his talk...

"6/10 See Me. TP"

Still - it could have been worse. I could have asked him to sign an amusingly shaped vegetable...

I'm sure that I have my signed notes somewhere. It's entirely possible that they were used as a bookmark inside a hardback which made its way to a charity shop. Ah well!

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